Su Heting’s expression remained neutral.
Looking at the empty city, he thought of the Inspector’s eyes and tasted a twinge of sadness. But this sorrow was so distant that for a moment, he could not find the right words of comfort.
“Since they’re dead, then so be it.” On the contrary, Xiaogu was rather philosophical about it. He continued to walk forward. “They won’t be that much happy anyway if they are alive. Every day, it’s ‘gods and demons passing through’. There’s nothing to look forward to.”
An underground garage lay at the end of the road. Su Heting glanced at the security gate sentry when he entered. There was nothing inside. The data recognition systems here were all just for show.
Xiaogu did not have to bend over to pass through the fence. Staying close to the wall, he walked further down and kept talking, “It’s a pity everyone has become an e-ghost. They don’t even have a tombstone after dissipating.”
There were no lights in the garage passageway, and it was even darker underneath. The more they walked, the more stuffy they felt. A waft of damp, musty smell like some overcooked fungus hung in the air.
Su Heting’s tail flicked a little, and the tip switched into a small lamp. The lamp swung beside his body, dispelling some of the darkness. He grabbed hold of the back of Xiaogu’s collar and lifted him up effortlessly. “You come here often?”
“Yeah, the cars here are usable.” Xiaogu’s legs dangled in the air as he directed, “Go a little further in. I remembered there’s another type-T armored vehicle there.”
What was wrong with the Supreme God Systems to be respawning the armored vehicles here?
Su Heting perked his cat ears up, but he heard nothing else other than his own footsteps. Carrying Xiaogu, he leaped over the drain in the garage and found that type-T armored vehicle.
“Get in.” Su Heting pulled the car door open and shoved Xiaogu into the seat next to him. He sat in the driver’s seat and found the information card for activating the vehicle beside him. He turned to look at the back where a row of armament cases was neatly set on the back seat.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Xiaogu looked back too and partially leaned over his backrest. “There are plenty of armament points in the city that refresh at dawn. We get eighty percent of our weapons here.”
“You guys really did not send undercover agents internally into the Supreme God systems?”
Even Punisher of Heaven was not this considerate toward the Hybrids.
“To be honest, I thought of that before.” Xiaogu turned back and settled down in his seat. “I heard—”
His voice came to an abrupt stop midway.
Sensing something amiss, Su Heting whipped his head back and came face to face with a face half the size of a human leaning upside-down on the glass.
The face was all wrinkled, as if it was a product of accelerated aging. Its two sunken eyes, cloudy and yellow, swiveled like geckos and even came fitted with a gurgling sound effect. Its lips were dry and parched, and cold glint could be seen when it opened its mouth. Unknown liquid spilled between its teeth as it voiced, “Meat…”
Su Heting started the armored car without hesitation. He stepped down on the accelerator, and the car propelled forth with a “vroom” and head-butted into the rear of the car ahead of them.
Xiaogu’s delayed shout finally filled the air. “Go! Go! This is a tough one to deal with!”
Su Heting turned the steering wheel, and the front of the type-T heavy armored vehicle clumsily turned left and knocked askew the cars parked at the side.
The armored car’s tires screeched shrilly as they swerved across the ground, slamming the surrounding vehicles sideways.
Through the reverse mirror, Su Heting saw a few faces still hanging at the back glaring at that large, wizened eye.
“This is Xiaogu,” Xiaogu shouted into the communicator, “Report, we’ve encountered Blackworm!”
A loud bang rang out from the car glass at Xiaogu’s end. Blackworm’s face was so tightly pressed against it from above that its facial features were all contorted. Seen from close up, the cold glints in its mouth cavity turned out to be a dense cluster of syringe needles.
Get bitten, and they would be maimed if not dead!
Su Heting’s driving skill was extraordinarily bad, and reversing was too tough a job for him. The good thing was that the type-T heavy armored vehicle had been modified to charge through road barriers, so he simply barged all the way forth.
“This thing has no limbs. It’s a worm. You know what a worm is, right?! It has suckers at the bottom and is very hard to shake off. It likes being in groups… why are there so many here?!”
The headlights swung across the wall in the deepest recess of the garage, and Xiaogu immediately sucked in a cold breath. Blackworms were crawling all over, and there were a few massive ones with girths nearly five to six meters thick.
The armored vehicle rolled over the drainage ditch. Su Heting had seen the entrance. He revved the engine, but a heavy thud rang out overhead as a Blackworm fell from above and stuck itself to the roof of the car.
The one before the car window frenziedly spewed venom, and purple-red liquid flowed all over the glass. Su Heting caught a whiff of a pungent stench. Fortunately, the car windows were all tightly shut, and they could only hear the sound of the Blackworms slamming madly against the car.
Xiaogu covered his nose. Being surrounded by the Blackworms’ faces worked him up greatly. He hollered, “Go up to the light and scorch them to death!”
A barrage of bangs bombarded the car’s roof as Blackworms dropped from above and gnawed on the rooftop with their mouths. Purplish-red liquid flowed everywhere, and the stench saturated their nasal cavities, making Su Heting’s stomach churn.
The armored vehicle crashed through the barricades like a wild bull, but the rear tires let loose a long screech and lurched violently as the Blackworms jammed it in place.
“Meat…” Blackworms had inferior vocal devices that could only repeat a few simple words, “Human…”
They vied over themselves to stuff their bodies through the gaps underneath the armored vehicle. Like a bunch of swarming maggots, they writhed under the wheels, unconcerned even if they were crushed to a bloody pulp.
“Can you give me directions for using this vehicle?” Su Heting wanted to switch attacks, but there were so many buttons in the car it looked like a galaxy of stars.
“Yu Cheng! Call Yu Cheng!” Xiaogu yanked off the communicator, thrust it at Su Heting, and yelled at the top of his voice at the communicator, “Tell the cat how to drive this vehicle!”
Su Heting grabbed the communicator.
“Roger that.” The voice, however, was not Yu Cheng’s, but the Inspector’s. The Inspector was extremely calm as he said, “Turn on the red button on the third row from the top and call up the automotive onboard system to switch over to the automatic attack mode.”
Su Heting did as he said. He lifted a hand to turn on the red button and heard the onboard system say, “Welcome to Type-T Armored Vehicle No. 999.”
Before the automotive onboard system could finish its words, another massive thud rang out from overhead. The roof of the car remained intact, but that sound was too terrifying, like a heavy blow from a giant hammer along with the sound of friction from tempered suckers.
“Switch to automatic attack mode,” Su Heting commanded.
“All right,” Automotive onboard-system no. 999 answered, “switching to automatic attack mode for you.”
The bottom of the vehicle suddenly rose, and cutting blades flashed out from the hidden compartment. They started spinning rapidly, slicing those Blackworms pestering them into chunks of flesh. The sound of flesh hitting ground was unpleasant to the ears, followed by the damp, suffocating stench of blood in its wake.
“Bottom sweep is completed…”
“Deny autopilot and continue attack mode,” the Inspector instructed.
The onboard system just so happened to ask, “Is autopilot required?”
“No,” Su Heting answered. “Continue with what you were doing.”
On picking up the word “continue”, the onboard system lit up the central control screen with a three-dimensional model of the Type-T armored vehicle. The model rotated and zoomed in, with a red warning sign overlaid above.
The roof deflector switched mode with a swoosh, and the central portion sank down to switch over to an automotive-mounted machine gun.
“Attack by foreign object detected,” the onboard system said. “Processing.”
Su Heting heard a “click” as it latched in place. Following right after, the machine gun fired, and shells dropped off under a series of popping sounds.
“Keep driving outward,” the Inspector paused for a moment. “do you know how to drive?”
Su Heting stomped down on the accelerator in answer.
The armored vehicle steamrolled over the Blackworms on the ground and slammed into the barrier, sending it flying. Sticking close to the side, it charged its way out.
“Well done,” the Inspector said softly.
His tone was flat, no different from how he usually spoke, but the softening of his voice felt like an indistinct whisper, making Su Heting’s ears itch.
The cat shook his cat ears hard.
Xiaogu did not hear it. He touched his own waist and said, “I’m almost out of ammunition,” then turned around to climb toward the armament cases at the back seat. “Fortunately, we got into the vehicle beforehand. I feel grossed just thinking about Blackworms all over my head. Do you want a gun?”
He opened an armament case as he spoke.
A puff of pungent smell suddenly spurted out and struck Xiaogu’s kiddy sunglasses. Xiaogu instantly covered his face and yelled out loud.
The Blackworm huddled in the armament case shot up and bit down on Xiaogu’s arm.
“Fuck!” Xiaogu felt the syringe needles stab through. At the same time he moved to yank away the Blackworm’s head, he kicked over the armament case.
Guns and ammunition fell out, and slamming sounds also emerged from several other cases.
—There was more than one worm in the vehicle!
Xiaogu reacted decisively and sat down on the case to hold it shut. He cried, “I’m unclean now!”
Su Heting’s vehicle braked suddenly on the road, and his back slammed hard against the backrest. He pressed all the windows down, and in the instant the temperature rose, he turned back, grabbed the gun from Xiaogu’s foot, and shot a bullet at the Blackworm.
The Blackworm’s tail flicked a few times, and its vocal device squeezed out a hissing noise. Smoke rose from the bullet hole in its back, non-resistant as it was to heat and ammunition. Death was instantaneous.
Xiaogu shook his head, shaking off the sunglasses on his face. Sweat dripped off him like the rain as he said to Su Heting, “the d-dagger is under my arm.”
Su Heting pulled out the dagger from under his unbitten arm and wedged it under the Blackworm’s mouth that was biting down on Xiaogu. He pried away the soft flesh—it was all full of solid needles within.
“I feel dizzy.” Xiaogu’s face blanched white. He forced a smile. “Be careful.”
There was a variety of liquids stored in the Blackworms’ injectors. Xiaogu was not sure what was in his body. It would not be as bad if it was some nerve agent or paralytic agent; at most, he would just close his eyes and wait for death to come calling. What he was afraid of was that the Blackworm had injected some experimental drug from the breeding farm. This kind served as a stimulant that could make the human body mutate.
“No worries there.” Su Heting sweated a little as he asked the communicator, “can this be pulled out?”
“No,” the Inspector answered. “Talk to Xiaogu. I’ll be right there.”
Su Heting pressed down the other armament chests and checked over the locks to ensure that those creatures would not spring out again.
“The chests are locked.” More and more cold sweat broke out on Xiaogu’s face. His tears that had not run their courses blended together as one with his sweat, making it impossible to tell them apart. “Do you understand what that means? Motherfucker, they respawned and had been waiting all this while in the chests for me to open them up.”
Had Xiaogu brought the chests to the underground pipelines, or if the others had taken away the chests, the consequences would have been unthinkable.
“This has never happened before.” Xiaogu choked with sobs as he started to feel the pain. “I shudder to think… Are the other armament points…”
“Calm down.” Su Heting looked at Xiaogu with composure in his eyes. “We are the only ones active on the ground. You are the first who came to the armament point.”
His tone gave Xiaogu confidence.
Xiaogu squeezed out a smile with some difficulty. “You’re right.” His tears flowed the moment he smiled. “It hurt too fucking much.”
◈ ◈ ◈
①Blackworm: Size varies. Likes dark environments that are humid and stifling hot. Has the face of a human and body of a worm. It is all syringe needles inside its mouth cavity. Its body can store several kinds of liquids. Said to be a defective specimen developed for medical use in the Old World.
—”Right on Target Records of Supernatural Anecdotes”
Thank you for reading.